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Team Think Labs | Downsizing a Large PDF
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Downsizing a Large PDF

It is very common to have complex files in our business, whether it be an RFP in Illustrator/InDesign or a huge multi-layered web page file in Photoshop.  Many times when exporting the file as PDFs they tend to be too large to send to the client.  Luckily, there are multiple ways to compress PDF files to a reasonable size making them easy to email.


1. Downsizing your images used in your document

If it is simply for screen view only (which the majority of our work is), you don’t need big image files layered on your page. If you have multiple layers on a background, try flattening everything into one image and placing that. This will also solve a lot of PDF issues with transparent images.

2. Try editing the PDF Compression Presets

When saving your PDF from any design program, try compressing the images. The lower you go with compression, the lower your file size will be. Finding a happy medium with quality and size is the tricky part. You want the quality of the image to be as crisp as possible, while still having a small file size.


3. Reduce File Size in Adobe Acrobat Pro

This is the easiest way to reduce your file size. Although it doesn’t allow for many customization to your file reduction. Just open your PDF in Acrobat Pro and go to File > Save As > Reduced Size PDF… Then hit OK. This will reduce your file size pretty well.



4. Different Programs allow different results

• Photoshop

When working on a multi-layered comp in Photoshop there are multiple ways to save them out as a PDF. One is to use the “Layer Comps to PDF” script, which will compile all of your comps into one PDF file. This is usually still a pretty big file, so I would try some of the other steps to reduce it further. Or you can use the “Layer Comps to File” script and save each Layer Comp as a JPG. And then if you create an Illustrator doc with those JPGs and save that document as a PDF, that will reduce your PDF size. Make sure and un-check the Preserve Illustrator Editing Capabilities. This will keep your size down as well.


• Illustrator

When working on an Illustrator document with multiple art boards, there are some things to keep in mind when saving out a reduced file size PDF. If the document art boards are all the same size and at a printable pre-set (letter, tabloid, etc) then you can print as a Postscript and then run the Postscript file through Distiller at specific setting to get a smaller PDF file size. This gives you multiple settings to play with to get better results. The only downsize is that it only works on same sized printable art boards. If you have multi-sized art boards the postscript file will automatically crop the page to whatever print size you have set. In this case I would save the PDF and then run one of the other steps to downsize your file.



5. Color Sync Utility

Another trick for downsizing PDFs is to use the Color Sync Utility on your mac. Click the filters icon and here you can create a Filter that compresses the images further to downsize your file. Once the filter is created just apply it to each page of your document and save it. These results can produce some bad image resolution, but it is somewhat customizable for different results.


6. Free PDF Resources

There are plenty of free PDF resources to help with PDF’s out there. Here are two that stood out to me.

• MAC: PDF Squeezer


PDF Squeezer is a simple-to-use PDF compression tool.
It comes with compression capabilities which reduce the size of your PDF documents. This will help you obtain important savings in bandwidth costs, digital storage costs and network transmission times.


  • Simply drag and drop your PDF onto the application window
  • Choose from eight presets
  • Up to 80% file size reduction


• PC: PrimoPDF


Re-create the PDF to reduce PDF file size

A handy trick for reducing PDF file size is to re-create or ‘re-fry’ your PDF. By creating the PDF again you can strip out plenty of unwanted objects, remove tags, and compress images further. You can do this with any tool that supports ‘print to PDF’ functionality. For this trick I’ll use the free free PrimoPDF print driver.

1. Open the PDF file

2. Open the Print dialog

3. Select PrimoPDF from the list of printers

4. On the PrimoPDF dialog, click eBooks. (Or to manually control the level of downsampling, choose Custom.)

5. Click OK.